ALBÉNIZ 7 Studies. Les Saisons
Both of these albums will delight pundits and academics anxious to follow Albéniz’s early style before it blossomed into his late masterpieces. But listeners less scholarly inclined are in for a hard slog through works which specifically or by implication have de salón attached. Composed largely for café society to supplement his shaky finances, Albéniz dismissed his early works as ‘little bits of rubbish’ and, like Tchaikovsky, who described much of his piano music as ‘musical pancakes, quickly tossed and turned’, he was grateful for the income they provided. For Bernard Shaw, too, Albéniz’s first works belonged to ‘the rose-gathering department of music’.
However, for Juan José Mudarra Gámiz there is little need for apology or negation. All his performances are shot through with brilliance and conviction. And even in those pieces which are over-extended and repetitious, his voltage and enthusiasm somehow carry the day. The music may be a case of much ado about too little but Gámez still relishes what is often a thankless task.
Miguel Baselga (Vol 8 of his cycle) is less committed than his compatriot, allowing many of his readings to degenerate into quaintness. He is suitably bubbly in the Champagne waltz even when unable to erase so much relentless charm. But he does too little with music that is often heavily derivative (the ghosts of Chopin and Mendelssohn and a prophecy of Lecuona’s Cuban revels). Both discs are well recorded.